How To Be Somewhat Productive When Working From Home During The Pandemic

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
woman sitting floor on computer
Scary Mommy and bongkarn thanyakij/Pexels

Two weeks ago, my husband’s company mandated that employees work from home unless directed otherwise by their managers. At first, I breathed a big sigh of relief. After all, we’re taking social distancing and isolation from the coronavirus seriously. If my hubby could stay home and work, it would further lower our risk of getting sick from COVID19.

As the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. The newness of both of us working from home and homeschooling four children wore off real quick. Our house is spacious when it comes to day to day living, but our state’s mandated shelter in place was a harsh reality check. We felt like the walls were closing in on us. My brain hurt, trying to manage all e-mails coming in from teachers, creating some sort of new routine for the kids, and attempting to keep my job. Working from home is my norm. But all the sudden, I had five new “co-workers.”

Togetherness is supposed to make us happy and thankful. This time of isolation is absolutely an opportunity to change things up, re-prioritize, and reflect upon what really matters. However, the reality is that many us don’t do well with anything-goes, especially when we still have to work. Chaos ensues, and we’re ready to pull our hair out. Multiple people working from home while keeping the kids safe and entertained is the perfect storm. A one-way ticket to Meltdown Town. There’s frankly not enough wine or coffee in the world for this pandemic trickle-down mania.

We quickly discovered that unless we put some ground rules in place, neither of us was going to accomplish a damn thing. On day one, the kids interrupted their dad no more than 144 times. They had a new trick to show him or joke to tell him. They had a question about their school assignment. They needed (another) snack. Could he take them outside? Their need to communicate with their dad was relentless. Having dad home all day, every day is thrilling — and disruptive.

Meanwhile, I was spending every waking hour trying to keep my kids from interrupting their dad while working my own job, making meals, and keeping them quiet when their dad had another work call—which was multiple times a day. If you’re thinking, that sounds impossible, you are correct. Something had to change. That’s when I had enough and declared that we had to come up with some boundaries and expectations—ASAP—because neither of us wanted to lose our jobs.

Set Up a Home Office

I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t live in mansions with formal studies featuring coffered ceilings, double glass doors, and cocktail carts. Therefore, we have to get creative. My husband set up shop in our bedroom closet. No, I’m not kidding. There’s a window in there, so it’s not a total prison. He uses a card table and a folding chair, opens the blinds, pours the coffee, and gets to work. Plus, it’s the farthest space away from the constant commotion in our living room. Meanwhile, I keep working at my desk that’s in our living room. We have also taught our kids, if the door is closed, don’t bug dad. He could be on a call.

Declare Work Hours

My husband currently works from seven-ish in the morning until five-ish in the evening, and my work hours are flexible. I’m handling the kids’ daytime schedule right now, with schoolwork, chores, movement breaks, and meals. Once late afternoon hits, they shower, get on pjs, and play on their devices. Once their technology comes out, I get to work. I then carve out a few hours on the weekends as need-be. The reality is, my husband and I can’t work at the same time with our four kids in the house. Finding hours that work for you will increase productivity and decrease frustration.

Take Breaks

Just like when you’re working outside the home, when you’re working in-home, it’s important to take breaks. You don’t want to strain your vision or your back by sitting on your rear in front of a screen for too long. Exercise isn’t just important for weight management, but it’s an essential component to managing mental health. Given that we’re in an especially stressful time, exercise is even more critical. The same goes for food (and lots of coffee) breaks. If you’re working from home with a partner, you can try to coordinate meals and snacks together, touching base. Utilize your phone, setting timers, alarms, or reminders so you can avoid burnout.

Split Up Chores

What each of us would normally tackle to keep the household running has changed right now. Taking breaks might also mean squeezing in some chores throughout the day. For me, a person with anxiety, doing housework is therapeutic anyway. It feels good to wash, toss, or put away something. Now that we’re both working from home, we’re changing up the chore division to fit our new work schedules. Don’t forget, kids are generally quite capable of pitching in. What can they take care of themselves? The reality is, if you feel overwhelmed with childcare and chores, you aren’t going to be as productive at work. Crossing things off the list by delegating tasks leaves you more time and energy for doing what you get paid to do.

Hygiene Matters

You know when you’ve been ill for days on end and know that you need to take a shower in order to feel better? It’s no different right now. Get your ass in the shower. Comb your hair. You will be more productive at work if you feel fresh. Granted, I go from lounge clothes to lounge clothes (AKA: pajamas), but at least I’m putting on clean ones. Also, I put my shower on my schedule. I’m not kidding. I’m showering every night at five, with some essential oils for scent, and jazz music on. Now I’m certainly not putting on a full face of makeup (or any) and curling my hair. I just can’t function well when I am catching a whiff of my own funk, you know?

The current coronavirus pandemic isn’t easy on any of us. Working from home can be a big change. However, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to work from home right now, it’s time to figure out a plan that works for your entire family. Don’t feel guilty for telling your fam what’s up. Your job matters. And when this damn COVID19 is said and done, we still want to have our jobs. Therefore, we need to make sure our days are as work productive and pleasant as possible.

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